A dam that threatened to give way and flood a North Dakota town was holding back the water on Wednesday, though the 1,300 residents of Cavalier were still being told to stay away from their homes.
Steady rainfall between Friday and Tuesday dumped about 9 inches of rain on parts of Pembina County, swelling creeks and rivers and sending water flowing across the countryside from west to east in the east-sloping county.
The small town of Crystal flooded Tuesday, forcing a few residents from their homes, and people in Cavalier – about 85 miles north of Grand Forks – were told to evacuate Tuesday night as a precaution should the Renwick Dam about six miles west of town on the Tongue River be overwhelmed.
The evacuations included two or three patients at a hospital and 63 people in a nursing home and assisted living center, county Emergency Manager Andrew Kirking said. They were taken either to care facilities in surrounding communities or to the homes of relatives.
Local, state and federal officials built an emergency levee with the help of the National Guard on Tuesday to try to prevent floodwaters from eroding the emergency spillway at the earth-and-concrete Renwick Dam. The levee was being reinforced and monitored Wednesday as the area enjoyed sunshine instead of rain clouds for the first time in five days, Kirking said. “The rising water has slowed overnight. It is still rising, but it is not nearly at the rate it was yesterday at this time,” he said. “We are very, very cautiously optimistic now that the water has slowed.” A slow leak in the dam would mean a slow rise of water over a long period of time downstream, Kirking said. “Should we have a catastrophic failure, the worst-case scenario, we would see a massive amount of water,” he said. “We could see a foot of standing water in the six miles from (the dam) to Cavalier.” The water also would flood about a dozen people on rural farmsteads, he said.
Thursday, 23 May, 2013 at 05:05 (05:05 AM) UTC RSOE
Threat of North Dakota dam failure may be easing
“BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The threat of a dam failure on a river near a northeastern North Dakota city appears to be easing, and officials expect to decide soon on when 1,300 evacuated residents can return to their homes.
Pembina County Emergency Manager Andrew Kirking says the level of the water behind Renwick Dam on the Tongue River has been dropping since mid-day Wednesday. He says there’s still a threat that the dam near Cavalier could be overwhelmed by runoff from five days of heavy rain but that “the situation is improving.”
Officials are meeting Thursday morning and hope to set a time when the 1,300 residents of Cavalier who were evacuated Tuesday night can return home.
Steady rainfall between Friday and Tuesday dumped about 9 inches of rain on parts of Pembina County.” –